Thanks to Twitter I’ve been fortunate to connect with countless fans of the Chicago Fire that I may have never met otherwise. Jeff Krause is one of those fans. A few years ago Krause and I connected on Twitter over the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars. Since then we’ve gotten to know one another at Section 8 Chicago tailgates and Fire watch parties.
Not only is Krause a Fire fan, he is also a freelance writer, who is best known for his contribution to Chicagoland Soccer News and Fire Confidential Live covering the Chicago Fire.
I appreciate Krause taking the time to talk about his experience as a soccer blogger. I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I did.
Your Twitter bio says that you are a freelance writer – When did you start freelancing and what inspired you to do so?
JK: As far as specifically freelance writing, I really only started doing so in the last year. Up to that point, all my previous writing was through another site, however doing so has afforded me the opportunity to contract out some work as a writer, which is when I added “freelance” to my writing resume.
You have been contributing at Chicagoland Soccer News – Who else have you freelanced for, and are there any other blogs/sites that you contribute to?
JK: I occasionally contribute to Chicago Fire Confidential, which is part of the Chicago Tribune and is run by Guillermo Rivera. (Read CF97 Sirens’ interview with Fire Confidential’s Rivera from May 17.) I’ve recently done work for US Soccer and Copa America, and I have written for Total MLS, Soccer by Ives, Chicago Fire Soccer Club, and MLSSoccer.com in the past.
A few of Krause’s contributions:
Before covering Chicago Fire, had you done any kind of writing previously? If so, where/what did you write about?
JK: Before covering the Chicago Fire, which I started doing in 2011, I wrote for a music website called antimusic.com doing interviews, album, and live show reviews. Music has always been a big part of my life, so when the opportunity presented itself to write about it, I jumped at the chance.
Were you a Chicago Fire fan before you started Fire Conf? If so, when did you become a fan? Any other details you’d like to share.
JK: I’ve been a fan of the Chicago Fire for many years, but really only started following them more closely around 2008/09. I have three kids, the youngest of which was born in 2006, so my time between 1998 when the Fire formed, and 2008 was pretty tied up in their lives and being a father. I knew about the Fire and followed them from afar since their inception in 1997; however, it wasn’t until my middle son turned seven and garnered an interest in soccer that we really started following the Fire more closely.
How do you balance blogging with a full-time job?
JK: Balancing blogging/podcasting with a full-time job can be challenging at times, but it helps that I’m self-employed, allowing me to make my own hours. Doing so has afforded me the chance to go on away road trips to cover the team, as well as go out to midweek training and conduct interviews, both for the written word as well as for my podcast. If I were not self-employed, doing this would be exponentially more difficult.
What player and/or coach have you most enjoyed interviewing/speaking with over the years?
JK: All the coaches, players, and staff have been interesting to talk to on one level or another, but the ones that stand out over the years were mostly guys who are energetic, outgoing types. Mike Magee and Jon Busch were both extremely interesting and fun interviews to do because those guys are professionals, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They helped make the interviews very easy and fun to do. Chris Rolfe is a guy who was also a great interview for the podcast, both because he’s such a class act as a person, and because he’s very transparent and informative in his interviews. There are a bunch of other guys I could mention here for various reasons, but those are the ones that stick out.
Do you have any fun/funny behind the scenes Chicago Fire stories you’d be willing to share?
JK: One of the coolest things I experienced while covering the team was during preseason of 2012. The team was finishing up their camp in Charleston, so I decided to drive down for the final four days of camp to cover the team for Fire Confidential. While there, the last game of preseason against Charleston was rained out, so the team was put through a workout in one of the conference halls at the team hotel. I was able to watch the conditioning session and talk to the guys in a more informal setting, but it was a cool experience to see something that doesn’t happen every day, and how the team adjusted to still get work in, despite unforeseen circumstances. There have been some cool experiences that you are exposed to as a media member when covering a pro soccer team, but that was something that was rare and unique simply because of the circumstances surrounding it.
From your perspective, what is one of your most successful posts to date? Why?
JK: I probably define success differently from some writers or journalists, in that while I do pay attention to how many clicks an article gets, or how often it’s shared on social media, I typically gauge the success of an article by how I felt after submitting it for publication, and how informative or unique it might have been.
In that regard, one of my favorite pieces I’ve written was for a SB Nation site that covers FC Bayern Munich, which documented my trip to Germany in the spring of 2014. I had traveled there to see Bayern play Dortmund, and Phil Quinn from Bavarian Football Works asked me to write about my experiences for the site. That trip was so special for me personally, and to be able to document it and talk about soccer was something I welcomed.
Aside from that, I’ve had a few pieces I’ve written about the Fire that I enjoyed writing and I believe were well received, although again I don’t know that the success from them was necessarily something that could be quantified.
What are your favorite types of posts to write?
JK: I thoroughly enjoy writing more of a human interest or analysis piece than I do the game previews or recaps. Even with those, if I’m able to I try to focus on a certain storyline or event central to the game, rather than giving a verse/chorus/verse breakdown of what happened. In some instances, that’s what I need to do for the assignment, so I gladly do so; however, anytime I can go off the beaten path and talk about something from a different angle, or dig a little deeper, I welcome those opportunities.
How have you seen your writing evolve over the years?
JK: I think the evolution of my writing has come in a number of areas, some more apparent than others. When I look back 10+ years ago to when I started to really focus on writing, I see a good deal of inexperience and cutting my teeth the hard way on some things I wrote. My mother is a published author, so I could occasionally run something I’ve written past her, but a good portion of it just involved gracious editors willing to give me tips and help me develop my craft to be a better writer. Every site I’ve worked under or editor I’ve worked for, paid or not, has bestowed something on my writing that has helped me improve and become better. At this point in the game, I just try to put all those things into practice to convey something that’s interesting to the reader in the best way possible. And I will continue to be eternally grateful for editors who continue to help me in that process.
Are you interested in pursuing a sports writing career full-time?
JK: While I’ve always thought it would be fantastic to get into sports journalism as a career full-time, I’m at a time in my life where doing so isn’t entirely feasible. I have three kids, one of whom just finished his freshman year of college, and I have a successful business I run that takes up the majority of my time.
In the last year, I’ve been fortunate enough to get paid something for what I do on the journalism side, and if the opportunity ever presented itself I would always consider a change in vocation; however, covering sports in the manner I am now, and being able to earn a few extra bucks for doing so has been gratifying in and of itself. I’m passionate about a few things in my life, and I’ve always said that a passion is defined as something you’d gladly do before you ever got paid a dime for doing it. For me, that’s something that’s absolutely been applicable to my writing, even if that tide is changing now and I’m earning something for doing it.
How important would you say that social media (Twitter) is in relation to your blog/being a blogger? How can it make or break your credibility?
JK: Social media is a great tool for a sports blogger in 2016. The internet, in general, has been both good and bad in that regard as well, since anyone with a computer can start a website and claim to be a sports journalist/blogger nowadays, but I think the role social media plays in the current sports landscape is an important one. The credibility of doing so lies in being a trustworthy source of information. There are some in sports journalism who are obviously only in it to push their own agenda, which I suppose is always going to be the case, but for someone who is trying to get their work out there, social media is a great tool for doing so. There’s a great deal that goes into it, which would probably take more to discuss than you have room for here, but by building your personal brand on Twitter or Facebook and providing good, solid and insightful content, you can establish yourself as someone who can become
There’s a great deal that goes into it, which would probably take more to discuss than you have room for here, but by building your personal brand on Twitter or Facebook and providing good, solid and insightful content, you can establish yourself as someone who can become a go-to source for information. The place many bloggers fall short is in wanting that to happen overnight, rather than realizing that it’s something that develops over several years. For some, several years is too long to wait, which goes back to what I was saying about passion.
You also cohost a podcast, Fire Confidential Live. Do you think the podcast plays a part in making you a more credible author of Chicago Fire content? Why/how?
JK: I appreciate it when anyone thinks I’m a credible source of content for the Chicago Fire. I’ve heard those types of things occasionally over the last several years, and it never ceases to humble and amaze me, and I’m grateful for everyone who reads or tunes into the podcast.
I do think the podcast helps make me more credible, in a few ways. First, I’ve got a fantastic co-host who is one of the most knowledgeable and best sources of Fire information in Guillermo Rivera. He and I linked up in 2012, to do work on his site, as well as to start the podcast, and he not only has his finger to the beat of what’s going on with the Chicago Fire, but he’s a great soccer mind. Secondly, I think having a podcast sets us apart from some of the fan-centric soccer blogs out there, in that we typically get guests on the show from the club. Whether it’s a player, a coach, or someone from the front office, being able to have them on the show and talk to them face to face for Fire fans to hear gives a bit of credence to what we’re doing, since we’re not just spouting out own opinions all the time, but also because the club has given us this avenue to be able to have access to these people and get them on the record in an audio format everyone can hear. I think having the ability to do that sets us apart a bit. Fire Confidential as a whole has become something of a one-stop shop for fans, which we see as an asset.
Guillermo and Marty Tomszak provide the majority of written content for the site, which gets significant and steady traffic throughout the week. The podcast gives listeners another avenue to get Fire content that’s unique and sometimes more big picture, or centered on a certain event or game with the club, and photographer Sean King has partnered with Fire Confidential for the second season now, providing game pictures for the site, which has been fantastic. With all these different avenues of coverage, people can see that we’re not just flying by the seat of our pants, and we’re not doing anything with less than 100% effort. We try to bring a spirit of excellence to our coverage, and I think it’s apparent by what we’ve been able to accomplish up to this point.
What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing sports blogging?
JK: My advice to someone thinking about getting into sports blogging… First, don’t try to reinvent the wheel right from the get-go. Before you have the $1million idea, you need to get people interested in what you’re doing. A number of sites have risen up and provide good content by doing just that— providing good content. Allow your growth to be organic, and don’t try to save the world in a day. Do it because you love it, but also realize that you’re going to put far more effort into it than you’ll probably ever get credit for, and you’ll absolutely put more time into it than anyone will realize. If you’re doing it right, writing an article won’t be a 30 minute stretch at your computer banging out 500 words for a blog post. It’ll be hours of research, fact checking, and organizing your thoughts into what will eventually become an article. Sometimes it will mean doing a 20-minute interview to get one quote to use for a piece.
Also, realize that when you interview someone, you’re not interviewing them so you can quote every fact, sentence, or piece of data they give you. Most times, you’re asking the questions and filtering through the answers to get THE ONE quote— that one thing the player or the coach said that, as soon as you hear it, you know it’s the quote you’ll frame a whole article around. Sometimes you get the one quote, but sometimes you don’t. That’s where your skill as a writer will have to be that much more on point. Most of all, have fun with it. If it’s not fun, you shouldn’t be doing it, and if it stops being fun, take a hard look at why, and figure out if it’s something you have control over, something that will change, or something you can tolerate if it doesn’t change. Life’s too short to be doing things we don’t enjoy.
Thanks to Krause for sharing his experience as a blogger with me. Stay in touch with him by connecting with him at his personal Twitter account, Chicagoland Soccer News, and Fire Confidential Live.